Debate over the possible introduction of minimum passing distance laws dominated cycling news in Victoria this week.
The Herald Sun reported on Friday that the Victorian government was refusing to release a report it had commissioned into the effectiveness of a community education campaign on minimum passing distances for motorists overtaking cyclists.
The study was funded by the Transport Accident Commission and carried out by cycling safety research company PassBox.
The Sun quoted “an industry source” as saying that “the results of the campaign were not encouraging and it was surprising the government had not moved quicker on the issue”.
However, the paper also quoted Professor Richard Huggins who argued minimum passing distance laws could force cars to cross the centre line on roads and put oncoming traffic at risk.
“You don’t want to increase safety of one set of road users at the expense of another” Professor Huggins was quoted as saying.
The Geelong Advertiser reported an anonymous insider as stating that the Government had “issued an edict” to stop the release of any further results from the research.
7 News Victoria reported on the issue but framed their story so as to highlight the fines that motorists might incur should such laws be introduced.
“West Australia currently has the biggest fine at $400 and four demerit points” their article stated.
7’s Facebook post on the issue, titled “Push for new law that could see Victorian drivers cop big fine for passing cyclists”, attracted significant negative commentary.
Some commenters called for cyclists to be forced to pay registration, be fined for riding too close to cars or otherwise be banned from riding on roads altogether. Others appeared to be unaware that laws mandating minimum passing distance already existed in other states.
The ACT government’s decision to exempt Sikhs and others who wear headwear for religious reasons from mandatory helmet laws in Canberra is still generating significant discussion on Facebook. While some commenters have applauded the move, a number of commenters have used the opportunity to voice unsympathetic attitudes and beliefs towards Sikhs and other minorities.
In other news, the Geelong Advertiser reported that a Drysdale woman would not face jail time after pleading guilty in Geelong County Court to driving while drug effected and hitting a cyclist, leaving the man a quadriplegic and in need of 24 hour care. The victim and his family are publicly appealing for crown prosecutors to appeal what they see as a light sentence. They argued that a three-year community correction order including drug rehabilitation “did not deter the community from drug-driving”.
7 News South Australia republished video from Facebook showing a group of cyclists overtaking across double white lines on a downhill section of Greenhill Road in the Adelaide Hills. The article describes the cyclists as “idiots” and quotes local residents as being “fed up” with cyclists not being held to account for dangerous riding.
This story was covered by news.com.au as well, with the digital outlet framing the incident as an example of motorists getting “a taste of their own medicine”. Comments on News.com.au’s article were generally critical towards the cyclists, with some commenters calling for cyclists to pay registration and licensing fees.
In infrastructure news, earlier this month the Western Australian government announced the 2020 recipients of funding under the WA Bicycle Network Grants Program. The WA Minister for Transport announced that $7.6 million would be spent to improve existing walking and cycling paths in the state and to add more than 50km to the WA Bicycle Network.
The announcement garnered little attention from mainstream news outlets.
The Avon Valley & Wheatbelt Advocate reported that the increased investment would bring positive benefits to communities in Goomalling, Toodyay and York, noting that funding had been spit evenly between metropolitan and regional areas. The Esperance Express also reported positively on the funding, stating that Esperance had received one of the largest grants which would enable to construction of a 1.5km shared path to Bandy Creek Harbour.
The West Australian reported that pedestrians and cyclists would “soon have better and safer access” to Rockingham’s business district as the city received $400,000 as part of the WABN Grants Program. The money will be used to construct 3.4km of shared path in the city.
“Not only will this project improve safety along a busy arterial road, it’s also anticipated to improve traffic flows in the area with more people cycling and fewer motorists driving” Mayor Barry Sammels was quoted as saying.
The Minister stated in a press release that “to get more people riding more often, we need to build safe and accessible facilities, which is why we have prioritised facilities that connect communities to the primary cycle network and public transport hubs”.